How to pitch Briarpatch

Before you pitch a feature article, consider what it means to publish with Briarpatch. A national magazine based on Treaty 4 territory on the Prairies, Briarpatch has almost 50 years under its belt building strong analysis by and for the left in Canada. We work on de-centering whiteness, capital, and cis-hetero patriarchy by publishing stories that amplify voices, conflicts, and narratives of resilience from the margins. We strive to unearth the dynamics of political life and provide great fodder for political argument that will build a just, sustainable world.

The best pitches we get are those that respond to crushing political questions and come from unexpected angles. Your pitch should:

  • be situated in time and place. Why are you telling this story now, and about this particular place? Be timely, be relevant, and connect the story to the broader moment we’re in.
  • propose a bold angle. Without stretching or exaggerating, show us something we haven’t seen before.
  • reveal the direction of the story: what conclusion will you arrive at, and how will you make the story interesting to read?
  • tell us why you are the right person to tell the story.

How to get there

Your pitch should be under 200 words, and between one and three paragraphs.

Ideally, your first paragraph will grab the editor’s interest with a jaw-dropping hook. Within three to five sentences it will explain the thrust of the story. The second paragraph should briefly elaborate, situating the story in time and place (make it relevant to today’s political debates and current events) and revealing your analytical contribution. The third paragraph will explain who you are and what your connection to the story is. Make sure you include the length of the piece you propose. Briarpatch usually publishes features between 1,500 and 2,500 words.

A strong pitch will always include the interviews you’ve done or plan to do.

Anticipate. Remember that Briarpatch works on long production cycles (two months in advance of the publication date). We’re not a newsy publication, but we do look for incisive analysis about timely trends in politics and culture. Make sure your pitch is timed well.

In between print production, we’re always looking for timely online-only articles. If there is something important happening in your community or in the world, and you have a unique opinion about it, pitch us the idea for a post of under 1,500 words.

Know our mandate and audience. Make sure your pitch fits with the direction and goals of the publication. Briarpatch looks for anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, feminist analysis of grassroots social justice issues in Canada.

Our audience is non-specialist, non-academic, left-wing, with a strong interest in grassroots stories. The best stories are usually character-driven and have a decisive stance on an issue.

We rarely publish pieces on U.S. electoral politics, though we are interested in hearing about international stories with a Canadian connection. We don’t regularly publish poetry or short stories (the exception to this is our annual writing contest), and we don’t publish celebrity profiles or articles pitched to us by PR firms.

Check in: are you preaching to the choir? Is the tone judgemental, or does it present a reasonable, well-founded argument? Most importantly, does it build the movement for social justice? Check in on tone and scope before sending in your pitch.

Be exciting. Make sure your opening line makes the editor drop everything and read. Try some narrative techniques, be descriptive and punchy, and connect the reader with the characters, the conflict, and the analysis.

Introduce yourself. Be clear about why you are the best person to write this story. What’s your connection to the story, and what makes you the best voice to tell it?

Make sure you haven’t been scooped. Has your story idea already been covered by another writer (or has it been covered in Briarpatch)? If so, what new angle can you propose? How can you update the narrative?

What not to do

Don’t pitch a topic so broad that the editor can’t pick out the driving argument. A pitch on “climate change” or “the history of Canada” won’t land.

Don’t send in your thesis or academic paper. Academic work doesn’t immediately translate into magazine storytelling. Before pitching, distill your argument, find the characters, and tell the story in a way that will grip, engage, and convince non-academic readers.

Avoid jargon and insider terminology.

Don’t pre-write your story. The Briarpatch editor will want to develop the story with you and pull in emphasis and analysis that will work best for the magazine.

Don’t resort to tropes or predictable shock.

Most importantly, remember that writing for Briarpatch Magazine involves telling stories with heart.